The Bowls of God’s Wrath
“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple declaring to the seven angels: “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing Godʼs wrath.”
The bowl judgments commence here from the heavenly temple perspective in chapter 16. They’re symbolic of the urns in the temple that burned incense, as well as an allusion to the “cup of the Lord’s wrath”, an expression repeated from the Old Testament. I think we’ve surely established that pattern in this study, in how the entire Book of Revelation is an allegorical reapplication of Old Testament imagery. The bowls here resemble the trumpets, even in sequence, but extend the area or territory of judgment. Remember in previous chapters how we discussed that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are merely different perspectives of the same symbolic events? The trumpets spoke of the territories affected by their judgments as affecting one-third of this or that, but from the perspective of these bowls of wrath, it covers the territory on a worldwide plain, being the bowls aren’t isolated to talking about a specific attribute, such as famine or disease.
These bowls recall the plagues in Egypt from Moses’ day. The sores recount the boils that inflicted Egypt. The water as well turned to blood in Egypt. The darkness mentioned here too recounts the darkness in the Exodus narrative, and the believers were protected in Revelation 7, just as the Israelites were protected in Goshen. So ALL the imagery in this symbolic book comes from the Old Testament. In other words, this amazing narrative is an artful collection of the faithfulness of God shown to His people throughout the ages, and is compiled into an apocalyptic literary story carrying the message of encouragement to the believers to ‘hang in there’, and be loyal to Christ no matter the cost or suffering, because He is risen and that any person who is found faithful until death will also be raised in new life with Him. It will be a short term suffering in exchange for an eternal reward of life.
So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
Remember all the “marks” are symbolic of loyalty, whether to Christ, or to the pleasures of the world beast system. Here the images of Egypt’s sores is tied to those who are not faithfully walking in Christ. They are depicted as not being protected as the people of God were in the Egyptian narrative of Exodus. It is reapplied here in symbolism for those serving the Beast in the Great Tribulation, a period of time spanning from Christ’s ascension until His return.
The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.
“Water turned to blood” is repeated here in two plagues for emphasis. It’s displayed by two approaches, one by the second angel here in verse 3, and then again by a third angel in verse 4.
And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
The “angel of the waters” imagery depicts the ancient Jewish perception of angels having assignments over nature, often derived in Jewish interpretation of things like Psalm 148, a view that developed further as Israel progressed and began asking further questions in their new and ongoing situations.
This angel, whose depicted domain is turned to blood, praises God’s justice here in how Yahweh was returning to the wicked, blood to drink in exchange for the innocent blood they’ve shed from killing Hebrew children, in verses 5 and 6.
In Jewish tradition, God turned the Nile to blood in response to the Egyptians murdering the infants of the Israelites there. This idea appears in the Wisdom of Solomon 11:6-7….
“For instead of a perpetual running river troubled with foul blood, for a manifest reproof of that commandment, whereby the infants were slain, You gave unto them abundance of water by a means which they hoped not for”
Through this writing, we see that God blessed His people with the opposite of the judgment He sent upon Pharaoh and Egypt. We see this in the Exodus account where God renders the death of their firstborn in response to them killing Hebrew children, and also in the drowning in the sea, which are both essentially payback for the drowning of Israel’s children. As well as the Nile being turned to blood, we later see the giving to the Israelites, water to drink in the desert by a miraculous means, from a Rock that we now know was Christ.
And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
Why do we see the “altar” speaking here? The altar harbors the prayers of the saints. Remember the souls of the martyred crying under the altar? That we saw was representative of the place in the Hebrew Temple ceremonies where the blood of the sacrifices was poured out. We also see where the writer of Genesis used this symbolism when speaking of Abel’s blood crying out from the ground. And these bowls of incense? Remember how we saw the incense was symbolized as being the prayers of the saints going up to God, asking for vindication and justice? And here in chapter 16, the angels are pouring out these bowls of ‘prayers’ as if their spilling brings the judgment response they cry out for. It is masterful work on John’s part. This is the essence of apocalyptic literature. Too bad blind modern literalism has done to it the same thing blind ancient literalism did to the Old Testament, like we saw in the lack of understanding in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Religious spirits are literalists. Remember how Jesus said if they tore down ‘this Temple’ He would erect it again in three days? They thought He meant the literal Temple on the Mount. Remember how they thought He was Elijah or John the Baptist literally come back? Remember how Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be ‘born again’, and he asked Jesus how a man could re-enter his mother’s womb? Yeah, that is the problem with literalism in trying to interpret scripture.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
Here in verses 8-11 we have the scorching sun and darkness, showing God’s authority over the cosmos in granting power to the Sun, which in the Old Testament would evoke thoughts of covenantal judgment. This would be seen as such, being that the natural patterns of things are interrupted, and also evoking thoughts as well of the Exodus plague of darkness, which was judgment on Egypt’s sun deity, Amun-Ra. It would show Yahweh as the true God snuffing out the light of some false sun-god. Exodus 12:12 says that these plagues were judgments on Egypt’s gods.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.”
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
Darkness causes pain here? How does darkness cause pain? Remember the plague on Egypt, in how it said it was a “darkness that could be felt?” Yikes! The implication of a lack of repentance through all the suffering again alludes to the Exodus narrative. Symbolically this language shows the hardness of the wicked man’s heart and his desensitization towards God’s Spirit. The nature of sin takes men further and further from God, and often instead of judgment and hardship turning them to repentance, they instead become bitter and resentful. In all the judgments portrayed in the Revelation symbolism, the one constant is that God is trying to turn people’s hearts to Him and for them to forsake the world beast system and its mark, and to turn to and serve Christ so He doesn’t have to destroy anyone. As we see in this narrative, multitudes have always resisted His offer of salvation.
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
God parted the Jordan to deliver His people and bring them into the land of promise in the Old Testament. Here we see Him dry up the Euphrates to bring across the “Armies/ Kings of the East.” Modern views present these kings of the east as being China. But the Book of Revelation speaks and draws from imagery known to the day of its writing, and from the players of their worldview. Through the filter of the ancient worldview the guessing and suppositions die. This book is an antiquated writing TO THEM, not us. New York City isn’t in view as the great whore any more than China was in view as the 200 million man army. Revelation is symbolic reapplication of Old Testament imagery, the only Bible passages the 7 churches of Asia Minor had to draw from. Jesus and John couldn’t have communicated the intended point of the book by projecting unknown, future places into it that they wouldn’t have related to. There was no New Testament and there was no English mindset or language. None of those existed. Newspaper hermeneutics are a foolish, western ideology, but many false prophets have gotten wealthy from perpetrating those projections on the text.
The Euphrates was historically the boundary between the Roman and Parthian Empires. The Parthians were known as the “kings of the east.” We discussed some of that in past chapters, along with the “ongoing Nero” idea, where successors would come operating in the same spirit he was consumed by. They all would symbolize and embody the Antichrist spirit that is typical of world leaders, whose focus is not Christ, but the world system. That biblical Antichrist character isn’t a specific person to come, but a spirit that opposes Christ’s true message, and persecutes all who hold to it. This nature was, is, and will continue to be embodied in world leaders within the Beast world system until Christ comes.
And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.
Here the three “Beasts” of Revelation 12 and 13 are distinguished in their hierarchy. The Dragon is Satan, the Beast is Satan’s kingdom, which is the world system with all its trappings, lusts, and politics that seduce men to be ungodly. And then there is the ‘Land Beast’, here called the False Prophet, who embodies the false church that declares itself as being of Christ, but it compromises the message of Christ for an easy belief not rooted in death to self, but the blessing of self in this world. In the church, Paul’s “man of lawlessness”, another symbolic view of the Antichrist figure who represents its corporal embodiment, and is said to sit on a throne in the “Temple” and declare himself as God. This image is the false message with its false messengers, deceiving those in the church who are not submitted to and rooted in the Word of God. Not knowing the Word of God for one’s self is a clear sign that a person is already deceived by the Beast. These folks are content to attend church, maybe every time the doors are open, and to sit and partake in its church forms without a true godly hunger and thirst for His righteousness.
What is the represented ‘Temple’ in the New Covenant? The New Temple is made up of the saints as living stones, with Christ as the cornerstone, and the Apostles as its foundation. The Temple terminology in the New Covenant is allegorical, or symbolic imagery representing the people of God and their Christ; it is reapplied symbolism using former things. Getting it yet? See the deception that has wooed the churches with grandiose suppositions that sell millions of books? It’s the “Mark-eting of the Beast!” The Temple’s NOT a literal building made with human hands, so in order for this symbolic figure, the Antichrist or ‘man of lawlessness’, to enter ‘the Temple’ and sit on a throne means this lawless spirit, against truth, finds its place in the hearts of those professing Christ, by deceiving them through a false message of salvation, a false piety performed in God’s name, and through flash and bang outward charismatic behaviors being promoted as signs and wonders. This Image of the Beast is symbolism of a false, deceptive message, that if possible will deceive the very chosen people of God. Hello false salvation void of servitude and self denial!! Hello Calvinism! Hello Charismatic Evangelical portrayals of false signs and lying wonders! And how does scripture say that this lawless Antichrist man that is depicted accomplishes this deception?
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 – “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Tolerance of leaven (sinful behavior and a false appearance) in Christ’s Church brings the judgment of delusion upon that church. False prophets and false Christians are not to be allowed to remain and to leaven the real Christians. The Whore has no place with the Bride. Babylon has no place with Jerusalem. What did Jesus say about those who seek signs and wonders?
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
Oh the spectacles, inferences, and spiritual webs they weave to convince others into partaking in things forbidden by scripture of anyone who claims to belong to God. They say, “Come eat the spiritual food sacrificed to idols of self exaltation, preservation, and money! Jesus has paid it all so you don’t have to count the cost of discipleship in following Him anymore!” Liars.
For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
Three demonic spirits likened to frogs? This image of frogs too alludes to the Exodus plague, but as always, like with the locusts previously in Revelation, this stuff is reapplied as something different. There are three frogs here because there are three mouths, or voices: Satan, his kingdom, and his false church, (disguised as Christ’s church.)
As with every other example in the Revelation narrative, ‘evil mouths’ correspond to false propaganda, false accusations, false doctrine, and lies. These false messengers go throughout the churches deceiving people into aligning with the wrong message. These deceived people know no better because they are ignorant to the Word, having never given their time and lives to studying it. Had they put ‘oil in their lamps’, they wouldn’t be led into darkness.
But here, all these things are converging upon a showdown called “Armageddon.” Their lies are no match for God’s Truth. When the Sword from the mouth of God’s Word comes in chapter 19, these liars will all cease, along with these three representative characters, and all their loyalists!
All of this Old Testament symbolism is presenting a parabolic image in how the world system is on a head-on collision coarse with Jesus Christ, whether people truly realize it or not. It depicts this as the world’s armies, or the wicked and unredeemed, assembling against (opposing) the Truth leading up to this day, in what is to be the final battle of this world with the King of kings. It is military language that separates two kinds of people: God’s and Satan’s. After all, you are on one side or the other, and because of the allegorical “false prophet”, many will expect they’re on Christ’s side. But on this Great Day of the Lord they will realize they were deceived by The Deceiver with a gospel that sounded good and required little personal sacrifice, but was not the gospel delivered to the saints by Jesus and His Apostles. That Gospel requires one’s own cross to die on. They will be found having followed a false gospel void of the narrow way and straight gate that Jesus declared that FEW would enter into. Jesus said He will say in the day of judgment, “Depart from Me you lawless ones. I never knew you!” Remember Paul’s “lawless one?’ He is a merely representative of a heart attitude against submitting to the Truth. After all, it’s kind of hard to be lawless without having a law to obey, huh?
(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)
Here is a reminder of the wake-up call in what Jesus told Sardis back in chapter 3, in that He is coming like a thief in the night. The thief only takes by surprise those who are unprepared for him. They are found “naked” before him, or not having their garments on. This is idiomatic language which symbolized a great shame to ancient Jewish people. We see this “naked” idiom throughout the biblical text, used for spiritual shame. It represents being uncovered by the Spirit, or unmarked by the Seal of God, which, as we have seen, denotes loyal servitude. What were white garments representative of in this book? Purity and holiness. Jesus comes and finds some people not pure and ready to meet Him. But isn’t it amazing how the “man of lawlessness” finds a throne in the “Temple” and convinces people that Christ’s salvation is all about what Jesus has done for them, instead of what scripture’s true gospel repeatedly says of Jesus’ requirement for us to be saved? What kind of heart seeks a less obedient walk than Christ demonstrated? Are we greater than our Master who taught us to, “Believe Me and follow Me!“?
And in the context of what I call charismania, the charismatic movement, new to the last 200 years, this church practice is likened to a sporting event where people gather to relish in excitement, feelings and emotions, and boast in a “power of God” that hardly ever flows outside these gatherings. It boasts of power, and miracles (wonders), and signs that are meant to suggest that they are like the things performed by the Apostles in Acts, but there is one problem: These same people have not gone, nor intend to go out into their world with the message, have not died to self, nor suffered as the Apostles, evident in their focus on personal feelings, goosebumps, and outward spiritual behavior, and they have not a clue about their own Bible in real context, nor much of a desire to beyond their traditional selfish renderings, and they partake in activities of seeking the very things that Jesus said His people are not to do! Antichrist is alive and well, seated on a throne in the hearts of many of the professing church, declaring himself as God! It is as simple as trying to serve God with good intentions apart from the clear scriptural commands. Good intentions can still be rebellion! The Antichrist spirit is partly manifested through when we choose to believe the Bible says what we want it to, rather than to surrender to what He actually said and meant. And yes, God truly sends a strong delusion upon all who reject the love of His Truth so that they will believe the lie of wanting their own way in His name. He is not playing games.
“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
Armageddon is mentioned here, and John has pointed out the emphatic of this term being derived from a Hebrew word. If you look in commentaries, or Strong’s Concordance notes, you often find an explanation of this term as being “Har-Megiddo”, referring a mound formed by generations of ruins in the Megiddo Valley. ‘Har’ is the Hebrew word for mountain, and Megiddo, as we’ve said, is a plain located in northern Israel. There are several things wrong with this literalistic explanation. Firstly, the site at Megiddo is not really a mountain, or ‘har’. But rather it is a ‘tel.’ A Hebrew ‘tel’ is a “mound” of ruins. It is formed from generations of building on top of ruin after ruin, which is the norm in Israeli history. But the biggest problem with making the Megiddo Valley and its mound, as this place, is that Armageddon in Hebrew grammar has nothing to do with Har-Megiddo. And beyond that, there is not a single mountain in that valley region. And above even that point, scripture places this event of ‘Armageddon’ as being at Jerusalem. Let’s look at Zechariah 12:10-11…..
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”
So we can see there is at least some correlation between the day of the Lord to the Megiddo valley in referencing a likened, historical moment where mourning took place there, but not at all related in how it has been taught by modern Christianity. It is an easy assumption to make Har-Megiddo as being Armageddon, but an assumption that is not based on truth. Jerusalem is the location depicted in the scripture, and where does scripture declare as being the mountain that Jesus will descend upon? The same one He ascended from: Jerusalem.
The actual grammatical rendering of the Greek translation, ‘Armageddon’, from the Hebrew is ‘Har-Mo’ed’, which is found in Isaiah 14:13. It was translated into English as the ‘Mountain of the Assembly.’
Isaiah 14:13- “You said to yourself, “I will climb up to the sky. Above the stars of El I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mountain of the assembly on the summit of Zaphon.”
Ironically, Isaiah is speaking of a rebellious angel in this context, as trying to assume rule over the Mount of Zaphon (Zion) over Yahweh. Dr. Mike Heiser, an A.N.E. biblical scholar steeped in ancient Semitic languages and the ancient near eastern worldview, who has done some very great works on this type of subject matter, says this of Isaiah 14:13,….
“This passage is another great example of how the biblical writers would adopt and re-purpose material found in the literature of other pagan cultures. In this case, the Ugarit, to exalt Yahweh and to slight lesser gods. The Hebrew Bible has many examples, they are obvious only to a reader of Hebrew who is informed by the ancient worldview of the biblical writers.”
Mike is right. Reading Hebrew is one matter, but running it through the ancient context is the major key to seeing it properly. The context here was that Mt. Zaphon was attributed to being Ba’al’s domain by ancient pagan nations. By attributing Zion to Yahweh, the biblical writers basically said, “If Ba’al and the gods of other nations don’t like Yahweh claiming to be the Most High, and claiming to run the cosmos from the heights of Zaphon, let them try to do something about it!” Isn’t it ironic how this Mount is a worldwide focal point even today?
And so this is all the point of the war-like imagery of Armageddon; a converging of the rebellious nations/peoples under the world Antichrist system upon the holy Mount of Christ, in one final attempt to defeat Jesus at the place where Yahweh held council: Mount Zion. Folks, this is representative of the judgment day of the wicked at Christ’s return. It doesn’t end well for them.
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
Final judgment has come. Jesus has come. In the seals, trumpets, and bowls, the 6th and 7th acts all point to the moments of the coming of the Lord. Also, like in the seals, and trumpets, the bowls of this chapter will be followed by a narrative that pauses to elaborate on the final point. After the sixth seal in Revelation 6, we have chapter 7 expounding a narrative of the people of God, followed by chapter 8, which opens the seventh seal. With the trumpets, we see that pattern with chapters 8 and 9 going through the six trumpets, followed by a pause through chapters 10 and 11 to elaborate on more imagery, and then in 11:15 we finally see the 7th trumpet sound to announce Christ’s descending, to call up the resurrection and transfiguration of the saints to meet Him, and descend together as joint heirs of His Kingdom. All of these various perspectives of the seals, trumpets, and vials converge upon this very real reality: Jesus is coming back.
“And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.”
Here, more theophany imagery that we’ve seen over and over. Here too is the same earthquake depicted that we also see with the seals and the trumpets. This leveling of all things signifies the reality that the Kingdom is physically becoming eternally anew. See the previous references from chapters 6 and 11…..
“Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red.”- Revelation 6:13
“Just then a major earthquake took place and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”- Revelation 11:13
Same symbolic quake, three different perspectives!!
The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.
Babylon (the World System) is judged! Remember all past empires have fallen before God, and His Kingdom has and will forever remain. Don’t fear the persecution of a world culture and system that is not eternal. Fear God and keep His commandments. We will surely suffer for Christ if we are obedient, and may even be slain in that obedience, but the message is: Be faithful and endure until the end and we will be saved. Only then will any be saved. It is not a prayer for salvation, it is a walk of faithfulness to it.
And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
This imagery recalls Revelation 8, where hail destroyed the vegetation. More reapplied scenery from the Exodus plagues, but in a very hyperbolic way. These hail stones are the size of catapult rocks, denoting a massive destructive force. Is it literal? Obviously not. This is the final judgment symbolism pointing to the reality that all things will be made new at Christ’s return. What does scripture declare that the saints and Jesus do in this battle? The saints stand still. We do not fight back. The Lord fights for us and Christ opens His mouth and destroys the enemy with the “glory of His coming and the ‘sword’ of His mouth.” What is that sword? The Word of God. All of this allusive imagery is hyperbole that depicts the coming of the Lord in a symbolic way. Jesus is truly coming, and He will speak judgment over all things. He isn’t literally sending one hundred pound hail stones, fire from heaven, locusts, frogs, comets, and blood. This present world ends the way it started: by the Word of God speaking.